A novel apparatus for assessing visual cue-based navigation in rodents

Adam W. Lester, Adele J. Kapellusch, Carol A. Barnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Our understanding of the neural systems that subserve navigation and spatial processing can be greatly improved through access to experimental approaches that allow for precise spatial and temporal control of the sensory information that inform these systems. Furthermore, paradigms that incorporate concurrent behavioral metrics of navigation performance in the presence of experimental manipulations provide an additional dimension in which to understand neurobiological findings. New method: We investigate the use of a novel behavioral apparatus, the Instantaneous Cue Rotation (ICR) arena, which utilizes an augmented reality system to allow for rapid remote control of all symmetry breaking visual cues in the environment as rats perform a real-world visual cue-based navigation task. Results: We present behavioral data collected using two different reward delivery systems (fixed or mobile). Rats’ behavior was assessed with respect to the degree and timing with which their navigation strategies changed in response to an instantaneous rotation of all orienting visual cues in the arena. We show that rats were able to utilize projected visual cues to navigate to a cue-aligned goal both before and after the cues were rotated, and that the mobile feeder version was optimal. Comparison with existing methods: In contrast to commonly used existing approaches for investigating environmental cues in spatial processing, the ICR does not require interrupting ongoing navigation behavior or rely on virtual reality systems that limit self-motion feedback. Conclusions: The ICR is an effective new method for dissociating the role of self-motion and environmental cues in navigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108667
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Methods
StatePublished - May 15 2020


  • Allothetic cues
  • Idiothetic cues
  • Spatial navigation
  • Spatial orientation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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